Tinashe Makichi Business Reporter
The Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation will soon start mining its lithium deposits in Bikita, on the back of firming demand for the mineral on the global markets. This comes as Zimbabwe is experiencing a scramble for lithium exploration by foreign investors following the discovery of more deposits across the country.
Discovery of more lithium deposits could help underpin economic growth, as industrial usage of the mineral spans across different sectors of most economies. New deposits were discovered in areas around Harare, prompting Government to also prioritize lithium mining to take advantage of the growing global demand. ZMDC acting general manager Luke Akino told The Herald Business that there were plans to start exploiting lithium in Bikita.
“We have a plan in place for those lithium concessions and they are not be kept for the future; we are planning on working on the deposits very soon,” said Mr Akino
Zimbabwe exported about 20,1 tonnes processed lithium since 2013, generating about $3 million in export revenue, according to the Minerals Marketing of Zimbabwe. Locally lithium is used in glass manufacturing at Zimglass in Gweru.
Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth largest producer of lithium after Australia, Chile, Argentina and China and discovery of more deposits presents opportunity to increase its share of the market. Other major producers are Brazil, Portugal and United States.
Apart from ZMDC, other local producers of lithium include Kamativi Tin Mine, Bikita Minerals and Prospect Resources. The Southern African country also has undeveloped lithium deposits in Mberengwa, Mutoko and areas round the capital Harare.
Government is also contemplating consolidation of lithium pooling produce from different countries (DRC, Mozambique, Zambia and Namibia) for processing at a common facility. Zimbabwe’s mining sector has experienced immense growth over the past few years, but has not done enough to optimise returns from the sale of this mineral.
Analysts say increasing investment into exploration is critical for Zimbabwe for to discover new mineral deposits. Within the lithium group of minerals there are other minerals like petalite, which has potential to fetch good prices on global markets.
Lithium is used mainly as a component of rechargeable Li-ion batteries and manufacture of drugs used treatment for treatment of various types of mental disorders. Companies like Bikita Minerals have mined petalite for about 45 years, but the mine recently came under heavy criticism for its little contribution to foreign exchange generation.